TAMPA - Ville Nieminen is sorry. Whether that's for committing the offense or incurring the punishment, he's not saying. But the Flames' left wing knows his forearm to the head of Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier on Monday was a mistake, even if he does not think it justified the one-game suspension he served Thursday night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.
"Of course, I feel bad. Of course, I am disappointed," said Nieminen, who also served a one-game suspension in the second round against Detroit. "Everybody in this room has something they would like to take back."
Though Nieminen said he was at times hesitant to play his normal edgy style after returning for Game 5 against the Red Wings, the abrasive Finn used word play to describe how eager he will be for Game 6 Saturday in Calgary.
"I will be well-rested," he said. "And almost arrested."
Nieminen will try not to be overexcited, but that's not been hisforte in this playoff. He admits he was in a frenzy with less than five minutes left and Calgary trailing 1-0 at the Saddledome on Monday. That's why he thinks he skated into Lecavalier from behind, slamming his head against the glass and opening a cut that required stitches. Nieminen drew a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct.
All of the Flames face those maddening moments when their grinding style can cross the line to thuggery.
"Every player is involved in every department, and that's our strength," said Nieminen, who has seven points and 55 penalty minutes in the playoffs. "I think we probably got a little bit overexcited and started looking around (in Game 4). Who's going to score one or two or three goals and be the hero? . . . That's our problem. When we don't get our team scoring, we . . . are too excited a team at times.
"But at the same time, if we are not overexcited, I do not know if we are this far."
Both Shean Donovan and Jarome Iginla agreed. Donovan said the Flames "lost themselves discipline-wise" at points in the series. It's been an acceptable tradeoff so far, however, with the series tied 2-2 going into Thursday night's game.
"I think we have a style that got us here to be in your face and be intense, and sometimes we get a few more penalties than we like," Iginla said. "But to be successful we need to play that way."
Nieminen's suspension affected three lines. Left wing Martin Gelinas was moved into Nieminen's spot with right wing Donovan and center Marcus Nilson. Left wing Chris Simon replaced Gelinas on the top scoring line of right wing Iginla and center Craig Conroy. Dave Lowry was activated and worked with center Stephane Yelle and left wing Oleg Saprykin.
Calgary won without Nieminen during his previous suspension, 1-0 at Detroit.
Nieminen sequestered himself somewhere within the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday, trying to keep himself from sneaking peeks at the score on television.
That Nieminen was even in Tampa was a surprise. Flames coach Darryl Sutter, in between claiming the NHL and media were conspiring against his team, said on Wednesday that Nieminen had not made the trip. After Nieminen participated in the pregame skate, a Flames spokesman said he thought Sutter meant that Nieminen would be of no use on the trip. Nieminen's presence may have actually been helpful in Sutter's increasing gamesmanship, deflecting attention from the Flames who were preparing to play.
Nieminen said he never considered remaining in Calgary.
"There was a seat available on the plane for me," he said. "Any more questions like that?"